Well, Lawrenceville has done it again. The sweetest ⅛ mile in town has yielded yet another winner in the quest for great cake. While I had heard much about it before my trip, I thought I would pace myself by seeing what lay in the hinterlands of Mercer County before I partook of fare in familiar pastures again.
Our MercerMe editor and publisher, Mary Galioto (among others), was keen to make sure I included this latest gem on my quest, so much so that she accompanied me there to make sure my tasting was indeed complete. I must admit, I have been a bit “fork-shy” as of late. There have been a few instances where I built up high expectations about a place, but was let down. However, I have had quite a few pleasant surprises along the way and, for that, I am grateful. So — tentatively optimistic — I jumped in my ride and off to the Gingered Peach I went.
I made a left off that “Sweet Street” in Lawrenceville (also called Main Street) and a right onto a side street, Gordon Avenue. The Gingered Peach sat on my right side. Brushed metal wording affixed to a barn red small building let me know I had arrived.
After parking just outside their front door, I had to wait to enter as four people, laden down with big bags and large boxes, filed out as I held the door. They looked like they were leaving a doorbuster’s Black Friday sale and not a bakery. Inside, it was comfortable and inviting with the faint sounds of busyness in the background and the subtle smell of home-style baking in the air. The cashier, Mike Miele (the handlebar moustached front-of-the-house manager) had a healthy line of customers ordering cakes and purchasing goodies to go. That was an encouraging thing to see.
I made my way to a small table where the MercerMe editor and publisher, Mary Galioto, was waiting with our other taster, her little daughter, Pearl. We went over to the cupcake display which was filled with both tantalizing and artistically creative offerings. We picked out six to taste hoping we could actually eat them all. Pearl chose the Very Strawberry Cupcake, while Mary and I picked out several others but we’ll only touch on a few of our favorites.
Vanilla Vanilla, their take on the vanilla cupcake, was really tasty. As I have said in previous columns, it seems as though vanilla is often made and served almost gratuitously, with little effort or thought. I was grateful that this cupcake went beyond the generic box mix flavor and instead offered up a sweet cake with personality. The cake was moist and the vanilla flavor seemed to have a hint of something exotic that elevated this cupcake from the mundane to the memorable. The icing was a creamy compliment to the cake without being ho-hum or teeth rottingly sweet. The Very Strawberry Cupcake had bits of strawberry in the icing and the soft pink cake had hints of the berry as well. Judging by how Pearl ate most of it, I assume it was delicious, but you’ll have to go and check that one out for yourself. The Chocolate Squared Cupcake was also stellar, with a robust depth of chocolate flavor that tasted authentic and was devoid of the chalky aftertaste that sometimes haunts good cacao products. This really appealed to my preference for a cake comprised of less sugar and more depth of flavor, without sacrificing satisfaction. Then, there was the S’mores Cupcakes. If you like the old campfire favorite, you will love this cupcake which featured a crunchy graham cracker bottom, chocolate middle, and was topped with toasted marshmallows.
Joanne Canady-Browne, the owner of The Gingered Peach, describes herself as ”a girl who loves to bake.” She told me of her Georgia roots (hence the “Peach”) and how her grandmother Johnny taught her how to bake.
“We baked out of the cupboard,” Canady-Brown recalls, “and if we didn’t have a certain ingredient, my grandmother would say, ’That’s ok. We’ll just ginger it up.’” They substituted many items with what they had on hand which is probably what gives Canady-Brown her penchant for creativity and her dedication to flavor. “The first thing I learned to make was pineapple upside down cake,” she recalled smiling and glancing at a small portrait of her grandmother that hangs, vigilant, on the wall of The Gingered Peach. “I like to make good, comfortable, familiar and unfamiliar foods. Sometimes I use my grandmother’s recipes.”
Formerly known as “Let Them Eat Cake,” she rented space at the Arctic Ice Cream facility in Ewing but really needed and wanted to expand. Last December, after a series of very fortuitous events and a large leap of faith, she moved into the current location, which has always housed a bakery and, most recently, was home to the Village Bakery. I quickly took a large bite of the Peanut Butter Cupcake ( rich and peanut buttery) as Canady-Brown told me how I may have missed one of her favorite offerings, the olive oil cake.
“You are going to really like this, I guarantee,” she asserted, with a very self-satisfied look on her face — not quite a cheshire cat, but close enough. Remember the let downs I told you about earlier in this article? This is how they usually start off. I nodded my head, eyed the cake (it was not a cupcake, but a mini-cake, of sorts) and asked if I could speak to a baker.
I met a shy young woman named Amelia Mair, a graduate of the NECI (New England Culinary Institute) who has been working with Canady-Brown for two years. “My favorite thing to make are the scones, but I love to eat the cinnamon buns,” she shared.
The Gingered Peach runs a “task kitchen,” in other words, everyone does what they are good at. “I’m a firm believer of staying in your lane,” Canady-Brown stated. With a kitchen that has one decorator, two full time bakers, and six to seven prep people, this style of work delegation has proved successful for both the customers and the employees. One of her more challenging items are the croissants Canady-Brown admits, “I make these from scratch” she informs me. “And it took me years to master that technique correctly to the point where I thought I could sell them.”
As our interview wound down, an enthusiastic patron politely interrupted us saying, “We love her. We love the Gingered Peach so much. We especially love the chocolate croissants and their take on the ‘Hostess chocolate cupcake.’”
As I gathered up my things to go, I decided to take a few treats home to the boys and yes, I had become increasingly seduced by this olive oil cake. It sat tall and lean in the display case and I knew that eating it would not grant me a figure like that other “Olive Oyl” but I was so intrigued, I decided to risk the increased girth. I made a cup of tea at home later that evening (per another patron’s suggestion) and indulged. Mmmmm. It was moist, but not greasy, with a distinct, yet subtle hint of citrus and orange. There was plenty to share but, since there was no one around to share it with, (sorry, Mary and Pearl!) I ravaged it all, knowing that somewhere Joanne Canady-Brown was grinning that Cheshire Cat smile, saying, “I told you so.” Surprise.
Now that you know about The Gingered Peach, you should be spanked if you don’t get over there and try their awesome cupcake offerings. They also make custom cakes, a few of which I saw waiting in the refrigerator case that would rival anything you’ve seen on the Food Network. With a wide array of yumminess plus 15 kinds of teas, you will find your “sweet-mate” just before you renew that gym membership. As one of her tee-shirts say, “Make your cheat day count!”
The Gingered Peach is located at 2 Gordon Avenue, Lawrenceville, NJ. Check out their website at: www.thegingeredpeach.com. Get there before I do. Yum it up. Tell all your friends.